Lawsuit: Reign owes $387,000 in damages after eviction, ripped out chimneys, pipes and ducts | law and order

By | April 16, 2022

ST. LOUIS — Former downtown nightspot Reign left its Washington Avenue building with ripped out or destroyed cabinets, freezers, coolers, toilets, stoves, doors and gas fireplaces after it was vacated last year, its landlord alleges in a lawsuit.

A motion filed by the landlord this week is asking a judge to order Reign and its owner, Dana Kelly, to pay at least $387,000 in interest and damages.

“Kelly refused and failed to pay her due obligations,” the filing reads.

Neither Kelly nor an attorney for Reign’s landlord responded to multiple requests for comment.

The filings are the latest in a long row over the former 1122 Washington Avenue restaurant, which has come under scrutiny for flouting pandemic rules in August 2020 just weeks after it opened. Violations of masking and social distancing, as well as complaints from neighbors, kept Reign in the news for months.

Then, in August 2021, four people were shot dead near the venue within two weeks. City officials and nearby business owners said Reign was increasing the violence and evicting customers. The previous year had been particularly violent, officials said. At night, shots hit buildings, shattered windows and injured people. Several large employers even said they were considering moving their offices out of the business district.

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However, Kelly and her attorney said she was made a scapegoat for problems that plagued downtown for years because she is black and attracts a primarily black clientele.

Officials then arranged for Reign’s liquor license to be suspended, and on October 1, City Hall called Reign a “public safety threat” and ordered it closed for a year. Later that month, a St. Louis judge ordered Reign out of the building.

In November, Reign’s landlord, Copia Acquisition, filed a lawsuit accusing Reign and Kelly of violating the lease. Reign then owed more than $203,000 in rent, the lawsuit said. Additionally, at some point after Reign had to close, countless items of furniture and equipment were damaged, destroyed, or simply ripped out and taken away.

The damage included a range hood torn from the wall, doors blown off its hinges, gas fireplace inserts pulled out and removed, and severed or broken plumbing and plumbing, according to the lawsuit and accompanying photographs.

The cost of repairing or replacing the items could exceed $240,000, the lawsuit said.

Kelly asked in January for more time to hire an attorney and respond to the allegations. But she didn’t, the lawsuit said, and on Thursday Copia asked a judge to rule in her favor. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for May 16.

It’s unclear whether the $387,000 requested in Thursday’s filing includes unpaid rent or just covers damages and interest.

Reign is also facing an earlier lawsuit from Copia in 2020, in which the landlord sought at least $137,625 in unpaid rent. This case is scheduled to go before the court on April 26.

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